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Arbete till varje pris: Arbetslinjen i 1920-talets arbetslöshetspolitik
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2004 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Work at any cost : The work approach in the unemployment policy of the 1920s (English)
Abstract [en]

When Sweden was hit by the massunemployment of the 1920s the preferred way of distributing the help to the unemployed was to engage them in publicly financed and run relief works. This dissertation investigates why the work approach made such a strong imprint on the Swedish unemployment policy. It also analyses why the work approach, viewed as a social political measure, to understand how it structured national, local and individual conditions. In previous research there has been a tendancy to treat the work approach as the only natural way to handle unemployment. A comparison with the British case has shown that there clearly existed other ways of dealing with the problem of unemployment, and hence that the work approach should be viewed as a deliberate chiose. The study has also shown that existing institutional arrangements do not in any binding way stake out the course for future policies, and that the conditions for adopting the work approach was not any more favourable in Sweden than in Britain. The explanation suggested here is that the unemployed was looked upon with greater mistrust in Sweden than in Britain. The study shows that the work approach was designed to enforce norms and values connected to work ethics, self-support and gender. To enforce the norm of self-support it both discouraged people from seeking help, with low wges and strict conditions, and by putting them to work if they did. To enforce the norm of the male breadwinner the relief jobs were reserved mainly for male breadwinners, and women were excluded from the eligibility to appaly for unemployment support. In spite of the National Unemployment Commission's rather stron hold over the work approach, much of the implementation was left to the local authorities. This rendered them a certain amount of freedom of action, which put them in a difficult position. The local authorities had to balance long term economic goals and short term immediate needs, they had to carefully weigh the interests of different preassure groups against national, local and individual interests. Despite the powers of the Commission it was very much up to each local council to decide what the experiences of the unemployed would be. People were, by the unemployment authorities, assigned to three main categories: unemployed deemed undeserving, those on cash support and the relief workers. Creating different categories meant that the unemployed were split up, and made it very difficult to organise the unemployed to a powerful opponent to the authorities. The dissertation has shown that the social dimension is important in addition to the economical and political if you want to understand the choice and effekts of the work approach. It has also shown that it was a choice made in spite of prevailing conditions. Finally it suggests that the creation of the work approach was the really ground breaking move in the unemployment policies of the inter.war period, and that the "new" policy of the 1930s, with relief salaries paid according to negotiated rates, was rather a minor revision of the existing polcy. The main reason for the relief works in 1930s, as well as in teh 1920s, was to test the willingness to work. the aim of the work approach was to get the unemployed to take a job at any cost, and the primary method to achieve thi goal was to put the unemployed to work - at any cost.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International , 2004. , 300 p.
Stockholm studies in history, ISSN 0491-0842 ; 75
Keyword [en]
work approach, unemployment, relief work, norms, gender, implementation, social categorisation
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-210ISBN: 91-22-02093-4OAI: diva2:190988
Public defence
2004-09-17, hörsal 9, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2004-08-26 Created: 2004-08-26 Last updated: 2016-10-20Bibliographically approved

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